New Delhi: The world is witnessing the fourth surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, and India has to be on guard and cannot afford to slacken, said Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Friday (December 24).
While addressing a weekly press briefing, the Union Health Secretary issued a fresh warning against the COVID-19 pandemic in the wake of the rise in Omicron cases and said, "The world is witnessing the fourth surge and the overall positivity is 6.1 per cent. Therefore, we have to be on guard and can't afford to slacken."
He said that as compared to Europe, North America and Africa are seeing an increase in COVID19 cases week-on-week. Asia is witnessing a decline in new cases, but we have to be on guard.
"The top five states with the highest number of active cases, at the moment, are Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Karnataka," said Rajesh Bhushan.
Further speaking on the rise in Omicron cases, he said the country reported 358 Omicron cases in 17 States and UTs while 114 people have recovered from the new variant of coronavirus.
He further said that 89 per cent of the adult population received the first dose, and 61 per cent of the eligible population has received the second dose of COVID19 vaccines.
He further said that the Health Ministry advised the states on December 21 to impose restrictions like night curfew and regulate large gatherings.
"The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare preemptively advised States on December 21 to impose restrictions like night curfew, regulating large gatherings, increase bed capacity and other logistics and strict enforcement of COVID appropriate behaviour," said Union Health Secretary.
Bhushan said that there are 18,10,083 isolation beds, 4,94,314 O2 supported beds, 1,39,300 ICU beds, 24,057 paediatric ICU beds, and 64,796 paediatric non-ICU beds are available nationally.
While speaking on the medical oxygen, he said, "There was a 10-fold increase in oxygen demand from the first wave to the second wave. Thus, 18,800 metric tonnes of medical oxygen per day has been arranged for. The cause for concern is 11 states where vaccination coverage is less than the national average."
"World Health Organization (WHO) on December 7 said that Omicron has a significant growth advantage over Delta which means, it has greater transmissibility. Omicron cases double within 1.5-3 days, so we have to remain vigilant with Covid-appropriate behaviour," he added.
He said that the treatment protocols for COVID-19 and Delta would apply to Omicron while adding that the evidence has emerged that the immune escape potential for Delta is higher, and its high transmission rates will lead to high surge cases.
Dr Balram Bhargava, DG-ICMR, urged to continue with the same strategy of COVID appropriate behaviour and to ramp up vaccination.